When you talk about educational apps, often the first to come up are alphabet apps. I think getting kids to learn their ABCs is something that a lot of app developers see as low-hanging fruit. There are a ton of them on the app store, but very few of them are actually good.
If it is easy to make an alphabet app (which I’m sure it really isn’t), then it’s hard to do it right. My daughter and I have tried a slew of these apps. Most of them are repetitive, visually boring affairs that aren’t that much different than plopping your kid in front of you and showing him or her flashcards. (Not that I haven’t done the flashcard thing myself.)
The whole point of an app is to give your son or daughter something they can’t get from you, and I think that’s where a lot of these apps fail. However, there are a few that are absolutely fantastic. One of those is Endless Alphabet, which I’ve discussed in a previous Ana’s Apps column.
Thanks to the Apple Design Awards, I was able to find another great ABC app called Metamorphabet, developed by Vectorpark, Inc. I thought since the game won an award from Apple then it must be good. Turns out I was right.
Metamorphabet is a simple app that encourages interaction with letters in a whole new way. Where Endless Alphabet gave you movies to illustrate the meaning of words, Metamorphabet has you interacting with the letter itself to visualize new words that start with the letter.
For example, let’s start with A. When you first tap on the letter, it shifts to a 3D perspective. When you tap on the A again, antlers grow out of each side and the narrator says “antlers.” The word “antlers” also appears on the screen.
At this point, simply tapping doesn’t do anything. Now, when you tap and hold while pushing your finger up, the cross line of the A will disappear and the sides will curve at the top, forming an arch. The narrator then says “arch,” while the arch stays on the screen. At this point, double-tapping or pulling on the arch will make it start to walk. Then the narrator says “amble.”
This is the last word that you’ll get for the letter A, but you can continue to interact with the antlered arch. Once you’ve completed the “amble” action, birds will come to roost in the antlers. You can make the birds move around by swiping on the letter.
Metamorphabet is kind of hard to explain, so I’ll give another example, but you really should look at the video above to get a better idea of the gameplay.
Let’s jump to U. Just like with A, the first tap turns the letter into a 3D perspective. The second tap here will send a pair of underpants onto the bottom of the letter. The the word “underpants” is displayed on the screen while the narrator speaks it. Another tap on the letter and the two upward parts morph into characters. The one the left is basically a huge eye that’s crying. The one on the right is a mouth that appears to also be crying. The word here is “upset.”
For some reason, my daughter really likes this one. The last time she asked to play Metamorphabet, she said, “I want to play my new letter app. I want to see ‘upset.'” Hopefully that just means that she likes the animation and doesn’t really like seeing other people upset. But I digress.
At this point in the letter U, you can rock the two upset creatures back and forth and then the right one will sprout a stick out of his head, which turns into an umbrella, which appears to make both creatures happy. Dragging up on the umbrella will make it float up past clouds. At this point the word “upwards” is spoken and displayed. You can continue to drag the U around and open and close the umbrella.
Once you’ve completed the final word for any given letter, a star will appear in the top right corner. That means you can move on to the next letter in the alphabet. In the top left corner, you can pop out to the main screen and pick any letter you choose. The first time you play, you’ll need to unlock the letters one by one, but once you’ve done that, the app remembers and all letters are available to you at any time.
Metamorphabet is available for a one-time purchase of $3.99. While it doesn’t have as much content as an app like Endless Alphabet, Metamorphabet encourages a different kind of interaction with letters. Besides teaching you new words with images, it also shows you how to write each letter by taking the physical appearance of the letter and shifting it around.